Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students
F-1 regulations state that an F-1 student is entitled up to a 12-month period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after each completed higher level degree program. You may obtain authorization for Optional Practical Training before completion of a degree program. All authorized Optional Practical Training will be counted toward each 12-month limit. Students enrolled in English language programs are not eligible for Optional Practical Training.
A student's request to participate in OPT is requested through the International Programs Office (IPO)at Muskingum and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and authorized by USCIS. A fee of $175 is required in order to apply. Application packets are available in the IPO. You must attend an OPT workshop (offered once or twice each semester) and make an appointment with the Designated School Official in the International Office in order to apply.
Optional Practical Training Before Completion of a Degree Program
Although not generally recommended because Curricular Practical Training is available for most programs of study at Muskingum, students may apply for OPT during a program of studies.
Eligibility requirements for Optional Practical Training before completion of a degree program are: a student must be in full-time student status for at least one academic year (a Fall and Spring Semester); a student has, and currently is maintaining a full-time program of study; a student is maintaining valid F-1 status; and, a student must intend to work in a job directly related to the student’s course of study. A job offer is not required to request OPT.
If the above eligibility requirements are met, Optional Practical Training can be requested and authorized through the International Programs Office and USCIS as follows:
1. While school is in session: OPT (Optional Practical Training) can be authorized for 20 hours per week. The period authorized will be deducted from the 12-month total at a rate of one half month for each month authorized;
2. During vacation periods: OPT may be authorized either part-time or full-time
Once OPT has been approved, it cannot be rescinded after the begin date of the work authorization. A student may want to wait until a job offer has been made to guarantee usage of OPT; expedited processing may be available if you have a job offer. The time approved, whether a student works or does not work, is deducted for the 12-month total allowed by USCIS.
Optional Practical Training After Completion of Degree Program
Eligibility requirements for post-completion OPT are: student must be in valid student status for at least one academic year (minimum of 9 months); student has continuously maintained a full-time program of study, with the exception of authorized Reduced Course Loads; student must be maintaining valid F-1 status; have completed a program of study/degree program (to start work in OPT); and student must intend to work in a job directly related to his or her course of study.
A job offer is not required to request OPT. OPT must end no later than 14 months from your completion of study's date. Completion of study date is usually the date a student completes the actual degree requirements (last day of finals), not the date of the graduation ceremony.
After completion of a studies/degree program, OPT may be authorized for any period up to the maximum amount allowed (12 months) or the time remaining when other OPT has been deducted from the 12 months aggregate. For example, if a student did not use OPT during his course of study, the student will have 12 months available; or, if a student has used several months of OPT before the completion of her degree program, re may request the remainder of the 12 months not previously approved.
Please Note: Regulations prohibit a student from working full time and studying (even part time.) Example: Working at company for 40+ hours and taking graduate courses for a new degree program is prohibited.
Application Procedures for OPT - Before and After Completion of Program
Application for after completion-of-program OPT must be made far enough ahead of time for USICS to receive and acknowledge your application before your completion of studies (usually the last day of final exams). Two weeks before your expected date of completion is the latest you should apply. Neither the IPO nor USCIS will process applications submitted after the completion of your program.
Pick up an OPT packet from the IPO. Please complete the forms included in the packet and assemble the rest of the required documents. Make an appointment with your Designated School Official (Mrs. LaSota) and bring all the required documents with you your appointment with her. A copy of your complete application will be made for your file.
The following are required to file the OPT application:
- Check or money order to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for $175
- Form I-765 completed
- 2 passport style photos in an envelope, with your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back
- I-20 with DSO endorsement for OPT – make an appointment for this when you have everything else assembled
- Copy of current I-20
- Copy of passport identification page (and expiration date page if different)
- Copy of current or most recent student visa
- Copy of I-94 (front & back)
- Copy of previous EAD (if you’ve ever had one)
- ER-750 completed
- Graduation Audit from the Registrar’s office (if applying for post completion OPT), with the confirmation that the classes you are currently taking (or have enrolled in for the summer term), if successfully completed, will meet all of your graduation requirements.
- Transcript/Academic Record
- Advisor form, completed and signed by your academic advisor
- Form I-538 completed and signed by DSO
The DSO will review the above information. If everything is correct and complete, the DSO will complete the form I-538, and issue a new SEVIS I-20 with the recommendation for OPT. The letter from the advisor, transcript, graduation audit, and I-538 are retained in the student’s file. A copy of the I-20, along with all copies of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) is sent with the completed application (above forms) to the USCIS Service Center servicing the area of the school the student attended . Original I-20s are returned to the student.
USCIS will review the application. If all is acceptable, USCIS will issue a plastic photo ID card called an Employment Authorization Document, or "EAD," valid for the OPT period requested on page 3 of the student I-20. The EAD card will be sent to the address listed on the I-765. Employment is not permitted until the student receives the EAD and the employment start date listed on the EAD is reached. Working before receiving the EAD or reaching the start date is considered illegal employment by USCIS, and USCIS will consider the work as a violation of F-1 status.
Non-Cancellation of Optional Practical Training
Once authorization to engage in OPT is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled after the beginning date of the work authorization. This means that unexpected delays such as completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job and loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work for 12 months has been granted, it is gone. Exception: If you receive the EAD card before the work is to begin, you might be able to cancel the OPT. But once the OPT approval date has begun, you cannot cancel the OPT.
Social Security Number
If you plan to work in the U.S., you will need a valid Social Security number). If you have not previously received an SSN, you will need a letter of employment; a letter from a DSO confirming your student status and eligibility to work; and a government-issued form of identification (US or foreign), that includes your birth date, and which is over one year old but not expired (a passport is ideal). The IPO can make arrangements to take you to the Social Security office. Processing your application and issuing you a number will take about two weeks.
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security taxes (also known as F.I.C.A. tax). You should be sure to notify your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. The information is in Tax Publication 519.
F-1 students authorized for practical training employment are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local. You should consult an accountant or tax attorney for more information.
Employment Eligibility Verification
Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Verification (USCIS FORM I-9). This form will be kept on file by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.
Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the United States
Please note: while the OPT application is pending at USCIS, travel outside the U.S. is discouraged.
F-1 students who have been authorized for OPT can travel outside the U.S. if they have the necessary documents. You will need (1) a form I-20 endorsed by IPO within the last six months; (2) a valid U.S. visa stamp; (3) the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS or the receipt notice; and (4) proof of employment. If you do not have these documents, you may not be allowed to reenter the U.S.
If your F-1 visa stamp has expired, you will need a new one to reenter the U.S. As this may be difficult to do in some instances, you are urged to consult with IPO before making your travel plans.